Thursday Briefing: Delta Returns to Cuba, Lufthansa Looks to Resume Normal Operations

Delta aircraft

Today in the travel industry the headlines to watch are Delta’s official return to Cuba, Lufthansa’s plan to resume normal flight operations and a fund for victims of the Tennessee wildfire. 

Delta Returns to Cuba

After a 55-year hiatus, Delta has officially resumed regularly scheduled passenger service with nonstop daily flights from the U.S. to Cuba. Flights will depart from Miami, New York-JFK and Atlanta to Havana

Delta said it is the only existing U.S. carrier to previously operate passenger service until it was suspended in 1961. It was also the last U.S. carrier to exit the Cuban market with the suspension of its Havana to New Orleans service.

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Delta Flight 625 was scheduled to depart Miami International Airport at 8:59 a.m. and touch down at Havana's José Martí International Airport just after 10 a.m., making it the first official regularly scheduled Delta passenger flight since service was suspended in December 1961.    

Additionally, Delta Flight 448 from New York-JFK International Airport is scheduled to arrive just before noon and Delta's Flight 639 from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is expected to arrive just before 1:30 p.m.

Lufthansa Looks to Resume Normal Operations

In other air travel news, Lufthansa is looking to resume normal strike operations in Europe today following a strike that has cancelled approximately 4,000 flights since November 23, according to the latest statement from the company. 

40 flights will be cancelled today, Lufthansa said. The airline is asking all of its customers intending to fly Thursday to check the latest status of their flight on LH.com before leaving for the airport. Travelers who have provided contact details in their customer profile will be actively informed via email or SMS text message of any cancellation affecting them.

The airline has made a new offer to the Vereinigung Cockpit pilots’ union (VC) representing the pilots involved in the strike. The company is now offering a two-step 4.4 percent increase in remuneration plus a one-off payment. Remuneration would be increased by 2.4 percent for 2016 and by a further 2.0 percent for 2017. This latest offer is not linked to any other terms or conditions. Lufthansa said that the union had told the media it would be willing to enter mediation on the basis of an offer of this kind, and that the airline is immediately available to begin preparations for mediation. 

Tennessee Wildfire Update

Finally, the wildfires in Tennessee have killed at least seven people as of late Wednesday, destroying hundreds of buildings in tourist towns Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and damaging large portions of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA Today reports. The Castle, a home overlooking Gatlinburg, as well as several churches and Cupid’s Chapel of Love wedding venue, are almost completely gone. Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa is also likely entirely destroyed, although Dollywood, the theme park by country music star Dolly Parton, escaped significant damage and is scheduled to reopen Friday. 

Dolly Parton has announced she is establishing a fund to help victims of the fire, which also forced the evacuation of over 14,000 people, My San Antonio reports. The Dollywood Company and The Dollywood Foundation are establishing the My People Fund, which will provide a $1,000 monthly payment to families in Sevier County who lost their homes. 

Donations to the My People Fund are being accepted at dollywoodfoundation.org.

Additionally, USA Today reports that the American Red Cross is accepting donations at redcross.org/donate. Donations can also be submitted by mail by printing the form here and mailing it to American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37839, Boone, Iowa 50037-0839. Kroger supermarkets in eastern and middle Tennessee, northern Alabama and southern Kentucky have also partnered with the Red Cross to collect money and aid. 

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